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Mon 24 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Automation vital to stem storage costs

Managing data has become one of the most pressing challenges IT managers face, says Nick Bunyan, vice chairman of the Storage Networking Industry Association, UK (SNIA).

Managing data has become one of the most pressing challenges IT managers face, says Nick Bunyan, vice chairman of the Storage Networking Industry Association, UK (SNIA). “The largest overhead for most organisations is the staffing and costs associated with controlling data storage,” he adds.

This issue has been compounded as more enterprises establish storage area networks (SANs), which can be difficult to manage. Though interoperability of SAN hardware and software is improving, micro-managing all the pieces of the SAN and keeping the network running smoothly is a challenging task without full automation.

A further imperative to automated data storage is recovery and disaster prevention, says Bunyan. With businesses becoming more reliant on electronically stored data, the spectre of loss of service and data looms ever larger. “Insurance policies alone cannot guard a company against the loss of customer loyalty, business reputation and public trust if they suffer a major IT blackout,” he says.

According to a recent Gartner report, the storage resource management (SRM) market will grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24 % to reach US$849 million by 2007.

Storage Resource Management (SRM) has historically been seen as a passive activity centred on gathering and reporting information on disk usage at the array, file system and file level, says Bunyan. But SRM needs to do more than just identifying opportunities to clean up and reuse disk space. Storage administrators need powerful tools to help them handle larger amounts of storage more efficiently, but the real goal is to improve information storage availability.

In addition to preventing unnecessary downtime and identifying bottlenecks, storage administrators today need to find ways to use storage assets more cost-effectively. By incorporating policy engines and workflow capabilities into storage management products, companies can define what information they want to keep and where to store it. A simple example of this sort of policy-driven automation would be the deployment of a filter to prevent the storage of certain types of files, such as MP3 music files.

Policy-based management can also facilitate the communication between high-level applications to enable ‘automatic provisioning’, the ability to automate adding storage to an application that is reaching its current limit.

High-level management can also enable migration programmes to move files to meet a performance level, by ‘juggling’ priorities for classes of data — so that the most important data is also the most readily available.“Automation can clearly help to make information management more efficient and effective,” says Bunyan.

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